The Upper Hand & Other Grand Illusions is a series of vignettes that tell a story of courtship and intimate interaction. It opens with a confrontation in “Forever Love Is Tainted,” focusing on the inner monologue of a man deceived. The song is a shot of reality, produced by Jelani Brooks to achieve a sound that is syncopated in melody, harmony, rhythm and texture. Each song thereafter documents a realization, “A Private Island” acting as commentary on the literal cost of getting to know someone. Drummer Terry Orlando Jones appears in great form here, and later on “Covered in Cloth,” an acknowledgement of the moment someone invites you to move in.
“The Pinnacle (of Class and Taste)” is the only song presented here that is created solely by myself, though it’s outside influences are quite obvious. It documents the bliss of the high point in its words and also in the fleeting sounds of the supporting production. At the project’s halfway mark, the unaccompanied voice of Carminelitta starts “Our Love Was Brand New” and sets the tone for a session of reminiscence wrapped in synths at every frequency. “Secrets Seem Rehearsed,” complimented by Jelani Brooks’ saxophone arrangement, addresses the fate of it all with a tone that cannot necessarily be classified as optimistic or pessimistic. It just is. And that’s the nature of the struggle for the upper hand.